Session: Who, when and Why? Urban Crime Scene Investigation in early modern Europe and beyond (16th-19th centuries) Catherine Denys & Gerrit Verhoeven
CSI New York and other popular crime series have fostered the idea that criminal investigation is a modern phenomenon. Nothing is further from the truth, as early modern manslaughter, assault and battery, larceny, and other serious mischief also gave rise to a – more or less – meticulous examination. A motley crew of experts was involved: examining magistrates, a coroner or forensic expert, the bailiff and other ‘police officers’, material experts, etc. Besides these professional detectives, early modern CSI also depended heavily on the cooperation of ordinary people, who were willing to testify in court, to turn in their (unruly) neighbours, or even to hunt down a villain. According to the time and region, there were marked differences in the modus operandi
of crime scene investigation. From the sixteenth century onwards, early modern CSI witnessed some slow-burn evolutions, even though the pace was not always the same in Northwest, Central and Southern Europe, let alone in the rest of the world. This session invites experts to focus on these meaningful differences and to link them to large-scale evolutions such as state-formation, professionalization and bureaucratization; medicalisation and the scientific revolution; privatization and atomization, and, last but not least, urbanization. How did the scale, function, and centrality of early modern cities power more efficient crime scene investigation?